Parents in Guernsey say children with autism live a 'lockdown' childhood

The Guernsey Sports Commission ran a pilot scheme whereby five children with complex needs participated in a 90-minute sports class at Le Rondin school today. Credit: ITV Channel

Parents of autistic children in Guernsey say they are getting trapped in poverty as they are unable to work full-time due to caring obligations.

The issue is exacerbated by a lack of school holiday activities for neurodivergent children, the parents say.

Some describe their experiences as "daunting", adding their children are left with childhoods resembling "lockdown."

The Guernsey Sports Commission ran a pilot scheme whereby five children with complex needs participated in a 90-minute sports class at Le Rondin school today (Friday 5 April).

Anthea Roue's daughter Evie has autism and complex verbal needs, whilst her son is neurotypical.

She highlighted a disparity in provision for her children, saying: "As he's getting older the gap is becoming more and more obvious.

"The activities available for our younger child are there and we can book him into something, but for our daughter they are not there.

"We have to find them. We have to create them. Waking up in the morning and knowing there is nothing planned for her can be a long and daunting day.

"She does require that structure, getting up in the morning and knowing we have a planned activity even if it's just for a couple of hours, can mean the world of difference to her mood, well-being and for us as a family as well."

Lorna Higgins-Bare says she had to leave a full-time job in business for a different role when her son was diagnosed with autism - a move that has added strain to her and her family's lives.

She explained: "Due to the lack of support for my son, I wouldn't have been able to go back to work full-time and I certainly wouldn't have been able to go back to the role that I was qualified and trained in.

"Working term-time and part-time means that financially I am in no better position if anything I am actually a lot worse off because I can't find childcare for my son.

"His needs aren't being met outside of school times so it's pushed me into almost a type of middle-class poverty."

Similarly, Marc Winn has a six-year-old autistic daughter called Emie and says since her diagnosis it has been hard on the whole family.

He even compared her Emie's childhood to lockdown, saying: "The last four years have been probably the most challenging experience of my life, you end up isolated from your existing friends.

"You end up isolated from most of the community in terms of getting access to it and it's become a tough time.

"Most families remember what lockdown was like and during the holidays and weekend it can be very similar to what lockdown felt like.

"We all have a feeling of what lockdown felt like but that can last for a whole childhood."

A statement from Guernsey's Education Committee says: "We are pleased to see the work the Sports Commission are doing.

"Across the spectrum, we do our best to give our support to parents both before, during and after a neurodivergence diagnosis and are always exploring options of how we could do more."

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